Soon-to-be priests reflect on their lives and vocations
Three men will be ordained to the order of the priesthood in a rite that will begin at 7 p.m. May 29 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland.
Deacon Huong V. Le
I believe the birth of my priestly vocation coincided with the death of my mother. It was Oct. 14, 1994. On her deathbed, my father sat there, hands trembling, holding her fragile and worn-out body as if he was facing his own death.
My four siblings and I just knelt beside them in silence. I remember seeing a stream of tears run down her left cheekbone, her mouth moved as if she wanted to say something to my father, but no sound was heard. At the moment our mother passed away, I saw my father tremble, his body shook like there was an earthquake.
Witnessing this, even at the age of 9, I felt his inestimable pain. Their wedding vows and the bond of life and love were now violently disrupted as death tore them apart. The pain was indescribable and yet at this moment, I had witnessed something mysterious, beautiful and holy about my parents' spousal love. A spark of desire to know this love was born within me. I vowed to search it out.
However, as time went on, this desire was covered up with distractions of life. It was like a volcano, buried deep underneath the earth just waiting for the right moment to erupt.
The moment for it to erupt finally came when God suddenly surprised me. In 2005, I encountered a young seminarian in our parish. A fruit of our mutual friendship was my involvement in the parish's life as a catechist and youth minister. The long-forgotten desire, just like a volcano, suddenly erupted in my heart. It again gave me a sense of purpose and mission. This significantly shaped my decision to discern the priestly vocation mainly because I wanted to follow Christ with a hope of knowing what was at the heart of spousal love.
In August 2007, I moved from Hai Phong, Vietnam, to the Diocese of Oakland, California, and later enrolled in Mount Angel Seminary, Portland, Oregon, as a pre-theology student. In August 2010, I came down from the mountaintop and settled at St. Patrick's Seminary and University, Menlo Park, California.
In almost 10 years, my search for the meaning of my parents' mysterious love finally ended with a wonderful realization of my own priestly vocation.
This was a vocation to love as Christ has loved. It is Jesus Christ who has revealed to me my fundamental vocation to love. Christ, in his words and deeds, has revealed love to be an intrinsic and essential element of my human existence, without which I cannot live.
Love allows me to walk with God in harmony, for out of love I am willed into being, and because of love I will return to him. The ideal form of love that Holy Scripture presents is spousal love between a husband and a wife. In Christ, this love has become an iconic image of God's love, the love that Christ has embodied in his spousal relationship with the Church, the Bride to whom He has freely laid down his life on the cross.
Thanks to the birth of this desire to know the mysterious love between my parents, I have come to know that I am called to participate in and live out this wonderful exchange of love between Christ and the Church as an ordained priest. Once I was a searcher, I now know I have been found by God! I have a vocation and it is a beautiful one.
"God was knocking on my heart the whole time and wanted me to listen to His call to become a Catholic priest."
Deacon Michael Nufable
In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope." When I first read this verse after I was confirmed in 2002, I remembered, as a child, when we were living in a condominium in Hercules that my Lolo Bruno (grandfather) would knock on my brothers' and my bedroom window. This was our alarm clock to get ready for school and my Lolo's greeting before continuing his walk to St. Patrick's in Rodeo for daily Mass.
God was knocking on my heart the whole time and wanted me to listen to His call to become a Catholic priest. Even though my dad's college roommate and mom's younger brother are priests, it never occurred to me to become a priest. As a teenager I wanted to be married, and a professional bowler. I wanted to travel the world and compete in my favorite sport. Also, I was a shy person, so this made me think that being a priest wasn't for me.
Before the summer of 2002, after receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, the faith formation director of St. Patrick Parish, Beverly Pascua-Fung, asked if I wanted to help start the youth ministry at the parish. I respectfully declined because I was shy and did not have the gifts and talents to work with teenagers, even though I was a teenager myself. She allowed me to work behind the scenes, and the support of my pastor, Father Larry Young, encouraged me in developing the gifts and talents God had for me.
Even though I consider myself a quiet person, God truly had plans for me in my discernment. Also I received wonderful support from my parents, Renato and Maria Elena, and my brothers, Francis and Joseph, in my service to God and the Church. My brothers' love for the Church and sports allowed me to always say to myself, "Day In and day out, for the greater glory of God." Even in the ups and downs throughout my life, the Father has given us His only Begotten Son to grow in and with the Holy Spirit to continue the mission of Christ and the Church.
Starting as a young boy, my family would go on trips throughout the country and also visit my parents' home country, the Philippines. These trips allowed me to realize today that because of God's wonderful creation I knew I wanted to continue to evangelize His love and mercy to all generations.
"I pray that the Holy Spirit may come upon me and strengthen me to be a witness to the Gospel of Christ like he did for the disciples on the Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostle."
Deacon Peter Tu Nguyen
I was born into a fishing family in Vietnam. As a fisherman, I share with St. Peter some common experiences of a life of fishing. St. Peter's calling has inspired me for many years of my vocation journey.
Fishing in the sea is not an easy life. We have to face many hardships and difficulties. There are times when the sea is calm and peaceful, but there are also winds and storms.
When we fish, we do not know nor expect what we will catch once we lower the nets. We totally depend on the providence of God, the Creator. These experiences have been transformed into my spiritual life of vocation. Indeed, the Lord has graciously called and made me become a "fisher of men" as he did for Peter, Andrew, James and John in the Gospel of Matthew.
I have been called to be with the Lord, especially during the time of my priestly formation. There were joyful and peaceful times, but there were also difficult times when the Lord brought me into the "desert" to prove, to test and to know what was in my heart.
However, the Lord has sustained me and led me into the "spiritual promised land" where I experienced his love and fellowship. The Lord has strengthened me to say "yes" to him, to become a "fisher of men," and to serve in the Church, in particular in the Diocese of Oakland.
What do I feel in this moment? It is simply joyful for me in these days when I have been reflecting on priesthood. With this joy, I sing a song of praise to the Lord, my God, just as a fisherman sings his morning songs when he goes out to the deep water. I pray that the Holy Spirit may come upon me and strengthen me to be a witness to the Gospel of Christ like he did for the disciples on the Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostle.
I am asking each one of you to pray for Huong Le, Michael Nufable and me as we are preparing for the ordination to the priesthood. Please pray that God may fashion us into Christ the Good Shepherd and that we may serve the people and bring them to Him, who is the Loving Father and who is waiting for His sons and daughters to come back into His bosom. May God bless you all.
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